The Civil War… 150 years ago today… July 20, 1861

July 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We continue our weekly feature of reflecting upon the appropriate 150 year old issue of “Harper’s Weekly” from the perspective of a subscriber in 1861:
Today’s issue (July 20, 1861) has the front page taken up with two prints on the progress of “Filling Cartridges at the U.S. Arsenal at Watertown, Mass.”, which involves a surprising number of women. There are two interesting pages with a dozen prints of “Scenes About Camp” showing some of the activities while in recreation (dancing & acrobatics!) as well as practicing for warfare. These scenes offer a different view of soldier life; one away from the battle field. I can imagine relaxing & recreation is a welcome diversion.

One print has a scene of soldiers with Hagerstown, Maryland, in the background, and a few other prints have scenes of Harper’s Ferry, just a few years after the John Brown raid.  Very impressive is the doublepage centerfold showing “The Navy Yard at Brooklyn…” which shows several massive sailing ships. And yet another print shows that not all soldiers wear the traditional garb, as “Irregular Riflemen of the Alleghanies, Virginia” are in frontier clothing. How can those involved in a fight tell the enemies from their fellow soldiers?